Return to Transcripts main page


Venezuela Crisis Opens Rare Rift Between Trump, Putin; At Least Nine Dead As Record Cold Grips Much of U.S. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 30, 2019 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The special counsel is warning that materials from his investigation are being doctored and used in a Russian disinformation campaign. Is a Russian company indicted by Mueller to blame?

Careless whispers. The White House isn't denying a new report that the president held a previously unknown chat with Vladimir Putin without any U.S. translator or notetaker in the room. What did they discuss and why was it kept secret?

Back to school. Mitt Romney insults the intelligence of his top intel chiefs after they publicly contradicted his take on global threats to the United States. The president's fight against his own national security teams is escalating tonight.

And stay inside, that's the urgent warning across much of the United States, as some 200 million Americans are suffering through below- freezing temperatures. Tonight, the danger is spreading from this historic weather emergency.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm will Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, the special counsel, Robert Mueller, is accusing the Russians of altering evidence from his investigation to discredit the probe.

Mueller says information shared with an indicted Russian firm was used in the disinformation campaign, and now he's trying to limit highly sensitive evidence from being sent to Russia, warning, America's security would be at risk -- this as President Trump is undermining his own national security team.

He's calling top intelligence officials extremely passive and naive and saying they should -- quote -- "go back to school," after they publicly contradicted his views on threats from Russia, North Korea, ISIS, and Iran.

I will get reaction from Senator Chris Coons, a member of the Foreign Relations and Judiciary Committees. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our political correspondent, Sara Murray, and our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz.

Sara, first, tell us more about this new filing by the special counsel.


Well, Wolf, this has to do with this lawsuit involving Concord Management. This is the Russian firm behind this Russian troll company. Mueller has indicted this company. And what Concord wants to do is they want to be able to share information in the case with its Russian contacts.

The special counsel's office has been fighting that, and they're fighting it even further in this filing, saying, some of the information that we have shared with Concord's attorneys has already made its way out into the ether, it's been doctored, and used as part of a disinformation campaign.

So part of his latest filing says: "On October 22, 2018, a newly created Twitter account, HackingRedstone, published the following tweet: 'We have got access to special counsel Mueller's probe database, as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case Concord. You can view all the files Mueller had about the IRA and Russian collusion. Enjoy the reading."

Now, Wolf, the special counsel notes there's no indication that their servers have been hacked. And they say a number of these files have been doctored and some of them aren't even relevant to the case. But there is actual evidence that was produced to these defense attorneys that is among the stuff that's been put out.

BLITZER: How big, Shimon, of a national security threat potentially is out there?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, as far as we know, these documents are what the special counsel is calling non-sensitive, so they are not necessarily national security documents.

However, the whole point of this and the point that the government is arguing is, if you allow these documents to get into the hands of Russians, that is going to be a national security issue. And that is what the Mueller team and the FBI right now are trying to stop these attorneys who are representing these Russians from doing.

They essentially want to hand these documents to Putin's chef, right, the man that we all know as Putin's chef. This is the guy that this law firm, these attorneys are representing. And they're saying, we need him to view these documents. And the Mueller team is like, absolutely not.

So that's what's going on here. And they have a good case now. They're saying look at what happened to the non-sensitive documents. What happens if we give them the sensitive documents?

BLITZER: And CNN was actually contacted by this mysterious Twitter account and offered up this information.

MURRAY: That's right. They set up this Twitter account. They wanted to make it seem like they had hacked the special counsel's database.

And a CNN reporter did get a message. It said -- from this account -- "We are anonymous hackers. We are like hundreds of others. But we are the one and only who got special counsel Mueller database."

This person went on to say: "You might wonder why we want to share all this information with you. So you're just one of the few who can handle it in the right way. You are the one who can tell people the truth."

And CNN -- the CNN reporter didn't respond to this message. But they did check in with the special counsel's office, as well as the defense team, to try to see if they knew what was going on, if there had been any kind of hacking situation.

But it just goes to show you the way this Twitter account was trying to reach out to people and spread this notion that the special counsel had that hacked, and there were all these legitimate documents on offer.

BLITZER: Are the Russians who were involved in this scheme still active?

PROKUPECZ: It would appear so, Wolf.


In the filing -- in this filing -- let me just read to you a key line here that I certainly found fascinating, is that the Mueller team says that: "The sensitive discovery identifies uncharged individuals and entities that the government believes are continuing to engage in operations that interfere with lawful U.S. government functions like those activities charged in the indictment."

So, clearly, there are names, there are still people that are associated with this company, with the Russians that were already indicted and charged that are still under investigation and that are still participating in this disinformation campaign, the fake news, and really ultimately still conducting an influence operation.

And obviously from what we heard yesterday, there was a lot of concern heading into 2020. So the very people that are named in this indictment, that are part of this indictment could still very much be active in doing this.

BLITZER: Yes, no letdown on the part of the Russians. They're continuing their activities.


BLITZER: Shimon, Sara, guys, thank you very much.

We're going to have much more on the breaking news in just a moment, but there's other important news we want to get out as well, the president and his newest attack against the United States intelligence community.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, the president clearly didn't appreciate that his intel chiefs publicly contradicted him on several major national security threats facing the United States.


And it's interesting because the president spent the morning attacking those officials for what they said when they were testifying on Capitol Hill yesterday. And then the only thing on his public schedule today was an intelligence briefing in the Oval Office with those same officials he spent the morning lashing out at, essentially saying that not only were they contradicting him, but that, in his mind, he believes what they were talking about, what they say are the most grave national security threats facing the U.S., he believes they're wrong.


COLLINS (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump is blasting the nation's top intelligence chiefs as passive and naive after they publicly contradicted him while testifying on Capitol Hill.

DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.

ISIS into intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.

We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities.

COLLINS: On Twitter, Trump telling his own spy chiefs "Go back to school" after they said North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons and that for now Iran isn't taking steps to produce a nuclear weapon.

Trump insisting they are wrong about Iran, North Korea and ISIS.

The sharp rebuke deepening the divide between what the president tells the nation and what his intelligence officials tell him.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.

COLLINS: This as a new report from "The Financial Times" claims Trump came face to face with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in November, chatting privately for 15 minutes, with no U.S. translator or notetaker present, just first lady Melania Trump and Putin's translator.

The White House isn't denying the report, but tells CNN Trump merely reiterated to Putin why he canceled their formal meeting at the summit due to tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

Asked if Trump's private conversation put the intelligence community at a disadvantage, the director of national intelligence said he'd rather answer behind closed doors.

COATS: Well, Senator, clearly, this is a sensitive issue, and it's an issue that we ought to talk about this afternoon. I look forward to discussing that in a closed session.

COLLINS: Meantime, the president has a warning for a group of bipartisan lawmakers meeting for the first time today in hopes of avoiding another government shutdown, tweeting that they're wasting their time if they don't factor in his demand for border wall money.

A Democratic lawmaker involved in the talks drawing a line in the sand today.

QUESTION: If it's called a fence, does that change it for you?


COLLINS: Democrats may not be reversing course, but a technology company that claimed it would create thousands of manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin is.

TRUMP: They wouldn't have done it here, except that I became president. So that's good.

COLLINS: Foxconn now saying it will build a technology hub instead of the factory full of blue-collar jobs it promised the president.

TRUMP: As Foxconn has discovered, there's no better place to build higher and grow than right here in the United States.

COLLINS: Trump touted the move as proof he was making good on his campaign promise to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. But now Foxconn will make LCD panels overseas before shipping them here.


COLLINS: Now, Wolf, of course, the president can't control the actions of a private company. But he did tie himself to Foxconn by saying that their actions proved he was following through on that campaign promise to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States.


We have asked the White House several hours ago for their response, the president's response to this story. But, Wolf, they haven't gotten back to us. And they just declared a lid, which means we don't expect to see the president for the rest of the day.

BLITZER: We will see if he tweets, though. That's not part of the lid.


BLITZER: Thank you very much, Kaitlan, for that report.

Let's turn back to the breaking news on the Russia investigation.

We're joined by Senator Chris Coons. He's a Democrat. He serves on both the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

This new filing from the special counsel shows how the Russians tried to discredit the Mueller investigation. And they used special counsel documents that had been shared with this indicted Russian company and then somehow released them and then distorted some of the information.

What does that tell you about the ongoing threat posed by Russia?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Well, Wolf, what's striking about the news that we just heard across three different fronts is how things seem to remain the same years later.

So, several years ago, we had President Trump disagreeing with the intelligence community, disrespecting their assessment that Russia had hacked into the DNC, and then spread those elicit documents, in an attempt to influence the 2016 election.

We had President Trump not sharing information from a private meeting with President Putin. And we had those doctored documents released after the DNC hack. That happened several years ago. And it's just happened again.

It's striking how President Trump's interests seem to align with Russia's interests across all three of these stories. We don't know whether Robert Mueller's investigation is about to wrap up. But what we do know is that the defense for a company that has been indicted by Mueller is cooperating with Russian disinformation efforts.

And that should be alarming to all of us.

BLITZER: That's a very significant point, because the special counsel, as you know, is now fighting the company's efforts to get more sensitive documents.

Did Mueller make a mistake in his handling of the case, potentially putting those documents at risk of falling into the hands of these Russian trolls?

COONS: Well, my sense from reporting, Wolf, is that the documents that were shared with the defense were not highly classified, the sorts of documents that would actually threaten American national security, but they are sensitive. And it's a demonstration that defense counsel here can't be trusted to

not share those important documents, those sensitive documents with Russian disinformation efforts. So I expect that Robert Mueller and folks in his team will be using this most recent incident as they try to constrain the access to documents by the defense team in this case.

BLITZER: Yes, this comes, as you know, Senator, as "The Financial Times" is reporting the details of yet another private conversation between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin where no American officials or interpreters were present.

Why does this seem to be a pattern now with their interactions?

COONS: Well, Wolf, there's no good answer for why the president of the United States would seek a private meeting and conceal it from his own intelligence leaders, from his own national security leaders by not having a notetaker or a translator.

What's particularly concerning about this incident, Wolf, is the timing. It came right after aggressive and hostile actions by Russian naval forces against Ukrainian naval forces in the Sea of Azov. That's right off of Crimea, the formerly Ukrainian territory that was invaded and annexed by Russia.

So this was a particularly inappropriate time for President Trump to be seeking out a secret sidebar meeting with President Trump -- excuse me -- with President Putin.



How concerned are you, Senator, that American officials were ignorant apparently of these details until the Russians themselves decided to reveal them to "The Financial Times"?

COONS: Well, it's very concerning.

But, Wolf, frankly, even more concerning to me is the president's public rebuke of his own handpicked director of national intelligence, former Senator Dan Coats.

I know former Senator Coats personally. He is a conservative man. He is a loyal Republican. He's a principled man. And he and other leaders in the American intelligence community testified about their professional assessment of the risks from Syria, from Iran, from North Korea.

Notice they did not testify that the southern border and the absence of a wall there is a great security threat to our country. And the president disliked what he heard, and so chose to disrespect our intelligence community and its leadership.

That's a pattern, Wolf, that is very troubling. It goes back to this secret meeting with Putin that wasn't shared with our intelligence community and its leadership. And it's as recent as today, when President Trump continues to suggest that he doesn't have confidence in his own intelligence leaders.

BLITZER: Yes, because it's pretty extraordinary. The hearing before the Senate was yesterday about global threats facing the United States.

The president clearly didn't like what he heard from the top intel chiefs. And, today, he tweeted: "Perhaps intelligence should go back to school."


What's your reaction to that, when he's saying that the leaders of the intelligence community, whom he himself nominated and appointed, that they should go back to school?

COONS: Well, Wolf, it is another deeply disconcerting suggestion that the president is not accepting the professional briefings from the 17 different intelligence agencies that make up our intelligence community.

All of us here in the Senate rely on their professional and independent advice. It is very unusual for a president to disrespect them so publicly. And I think that, frankly, puts all of us at greater risk.

BLITZER: We rarely see significant pushback from your Republican colleagues in the Senate.

But, Senator Thune, he said today we need to trust the judgment of these intelligence professionals. Senator Romney expressed his total confidence in the U.S. intelligence community. And the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, himself, is pushing for an amendment that rebukes the president's Middle East policy. He doesn't want the U.S. to withdraw from Syria or Afghanistan.

What are you hearing, Senator, from your Republican colleagues behind closed doors?

COONS: Well, as you know, the recent incident where President Trump abruptly announced a change in policy in Syria, saying that he would pull all American troops out of Syria after a conversation with President Erdogan of Turkey, exposing our Kurdish allies, who have carried the brunt of the fight against ISIS, to likely attacks either from Turkey or from Iran, that gravely alarmed many of my colleagues, Republican and Democrat.

And I think that's what's precipitated Majority Leader McConnell's effort to get an amendment, a sense of the Senate amendment passed here tomorrow, that would say the president shouldn't be abruptly withdrawing from either Afghanistan or Syria.

I will remind you it was that step by President Trump that led to the resignation of widely respected former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, just another signal that President Trump does not enjoy the full confidence of members of the Senate of both parties who are following closely these recent developments.

BLITZER: Senator Coons, thanks so much for joining us.

COONS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we will have more on the threat from Russia, as Robert Mueller warns that evidence he's gathered is being used to discredit his investigation by the Russians. What other information may be falling into the wrong hands?

And we will have an update on the truly freezing weather threatening lives and paralyzing large parts of the United States. How low will let the temperatures go?



BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, new evidence of Russian efforts to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

A new filing from the Justice Department says that a pro-Russian Twitter account used information from a criminal case by Mueller's team against the Russian social media company to spread disinformation and to try to discredit Mueller's probe.

Let's get some work with our correspondents and our analysts.

And, Phil Mudd, what does this tell you, this latest development?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: We're missing the one piece of the story that I want to hear.

It's -- I don't think it's surprising the information got out. I want to know how it got there. I don't believe this was hackers. I want to see what's called the U.S. government attribution. That is, do the tech guys in the government have enough capability to look at the Twitter account and say who posted it?

Are those posters -- and my suspicion would be, are those posters connected to the Russian government? Because, at that point, you say, that's not hacking. This is a concerted government action -- exercise, like we saw during the elections, to affect how the American people see the Department of Justice.

One final thing. Can you imagine if we find that, the president calling Putin and saying, hey, please don't put hoax information out there about -- about what's going on here, after the president has talked about a hoax for two years?

I would -- that phone call is not going to happen.

BLITZER: He says it's a witch-hunt.

MUDD: Yes. BLITZER: Apparently, the FBI does believe that the computer

associated with these Russian trolls was in Russia. There clearly is a link there.

Let's not forget, David Swerdlick, Concord Management, this company, this Russian company, was actually indicted for funding the Russian propaganda effort during the 2016 presidential election here in the United States.

The head of the company is one of Putin's closest friends, another rich oligarch. How much damage can they do to the Mueller documents and to the Mueller probe by doing what they apparently did?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: Narrower picture, Wolf, this story is already hard for a lot of folks, a lot of Americans to follow.

There's just so many moving parts, details, people, timeline, events. And any information that's out there that goes further away from the special counsel's search to sort of give people the complete picture of what happened from a counterintelligence or a criminal perspective is damaging to the ultimate goal of the American public and Congress and everyone else finding out.

Bigger picture, Wolf, this serves the interests of Russia, when there's more confusion and chaos on the American end of this whole -- of this whole controversy.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, do you think Mueller and his team anticipated what was going to happen when they provided this American law firm representing this Russian firm with what were described as these -- quote -- "non-sensitive documents"?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm sure they were concerned, but this is a problem that often comes up in criminal -- in criminal trials, because, under the law, defendants are entitled to see the evidence against them.

There's something called the discovery process. Information has to be turned over to the defense, out of respect for their rights. The problem is -- and this is not unique to the Mueller case -- is sometimes these are bad people who get the information.


And, sometimes, they use it for bad purposes. Think about when cases involve informants, how complicated it is to turn over the information, while also protecting your informants, who could wind up getting killed.

Here, it sounds like the Mueller people tried to work out some sort of guarantee that the information wouldn't fall into the wrong hands. But it sounds like it didn't work.

BLITZER: It certainly didn't. Rebecca, the Russians apparently found another way to embarrass the president right now. They have released, Russian government officials, to "The Financial Times" information about an until now secret encounter, chat that the president had in Argentina at the G20 with Putin.

This is a significant development, because there were no Americans there, except for the first lady, Melania, was there, but the interpreter was a Russian. There was no American notetaker there.


The president putting himself deliberately, possibly knowingly, in a situation where he's operating from a position of weakness, and Russia has all the power, has all the cards in their hand.

And the president should know better. He should know better or have someone on his staff who tells him that he should not be doing this. And yet he does this time and again, just completely disregards convention, disregards what is the smart move.

And the question is, why? Why would he put himself in a situation where there's no one from the American government there to take notes, to push back, to give him advice, no one on his team, and only him speaking with Vladimir Putin and a Russian translator? It makes no sense.

BLITZER: Also another significant development, yesterday, the intelligence chiefs, they testified before the Senate, Phil, about global threats facing the United States.

They differed with the president on several of those threats publicly. The president woke up. He wasn't very happy with what he heard from these intelligence chiefs, all of whom he nominated to their current positions.

And he tweeted: "Perhaps intelligence should go back to school."

That's pretty humiliating.

MUDD: Yes, but what is he not happy about? He has intel briefings all the time. These are the key issues we face, Iran, North Korea, Russia.

Was he surprised -- I hope not -- by what Dan Coats said? Because I presume that's the same stuff on the Iran nuclear program, for example, that they talk about in the Oval Office at least once a week.

I would also say, for everybody, including people on political commentary, who say the intel guys should line up behind the president, the intel guys advise, the policy-makers make policy.

Do you want us to go back to 2002, when the policy-makers and the intel guys got together and gave us a picture of Iraq that wasn't true? He can do whatever he wants -- that is, the president -- with North Korea, but the intel guys got to toe the line, walk in and say, Mr. President, sorry, we got a different view.

BLITZER: He didn't only say, David, that these intelligence chiefs should go back to school. He said: "The intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of the world."

SWERDLICK: Two things, Wolf.

First, throughout President Trump's political rise, we heard him say, I alone can fix, I have the best words. He was the smartest person in the room at all times. He knows more than the generals.

And that just doesn't hold water anymore. That kind of tweet might have resonated with the majority of folks at a certain point in time. I think by far the majority of folks know that when he's saying he knows more than his intelligence folks, that's just simply not the case.

In terms of Iran, the president I think is still driving the narrative that he was tough on Iran by pulling out of the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal, but that is only one of many foreign policy moves that have been questioned by people on both sides.

BLITZER: How significant is it, Rebecca, that he's beginning to get some significant pushback from Republicans in the Senate, whether Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney, or John Thune?

BUCK: Right.

Well, Mitch McConnell in particular, Wolf. It's very rare to see Mitch McConnell go against the president in a public, very blatant fashion like this. Some of these Republicans -- Mitt Romney criticizes the president on a regular basis.

But Mitch McConnell has been very selective about the battles he will fight with Donald Trump. And only when it rises to a certain level will he insert himself. And that's what this is.

He feels so strongly that the president is going in the wrong direction on Middle East policy that he has spoken up. And it just shows the magnitude of this situation. And the question is, does the president listen? He won't listen to his intelligence advisers. He won't listen to Congress on this potentially as well.

BLITZER: Yes, Mitch McConnell wants U.S. troops to stay in Syria and Afghanistan. The president, if he had his way, he would get them out tomorrow, all of them, as quickly as possible.

Just ahead: powerful accusations from an associate of Roger Stone. Did the longtime Trump confidant try to get WikiLeaks to release stolen e-mails to distract from that infamous "Access Hollywood" videotape?


[18:30:00] [18:34:18] WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: We're back with our analysts following breaking news out of anew court filing by Robert Mueller. There's a lot of discussion in - a lot to discuss in the Russia investigation in this hour, including the allegations against Roger Stone, the longtime Trump adviser, now under indictment, is facing another court hearing in Washington on Friday.

Our Political Correspondent, Sara Murray, is back with us. Sara, we've been hearing powerful accusations from Stone associate, Jerome Corsi. What's the latest?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Jerome Corsi insists that on the day this infamous Access Hollywood tape was released during the 2016, that Roger Stone wanted help from WikiLeaks to blunt the impact, this coming as Stone tells President Trump, he better watch out for what else Mueller has up his sleeve.



REPORTER: As Roger Stone fires off a warning shot to President Trump about the Russia investigation --

ROGER STONE, AMERICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT: President, wake up. This is a speeding bullet heading for his head, not me. I'm just a small, collateral damage compared to him.

REPORTER: Conservative author and conspiracy theorist, Jerome Corsi, is doubling down on his claim that in the bleakest moment of Trump's presidential campaign, Stone turned to WikiLeaks for help.

JEROME CORSI, CONSERVATIVE AUTHOR AND CONSPIRACY THEORIST: As my recollection Roger mentioned that this Billy Bush was coming, and he wanted to know if Assange could dropping emails.

REPORTER: In October 2016, just a month before election day, a tape became public, showing Trump in 2005 bragging about sexual assault to former Access Hollywood host, Billy Bush.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm automatically attracted to beautiful - I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

REPORTER: Corsi claims before the tape was released publically, Stone knew it was coming. He called corsi with a request, convince WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange to release Clinton Campaign Chairman, John Podesta's hacked emails.

TRUMP: Come on, Billy, don't be shy.

REPORTER: Less than half an hour after the tape was released, WikiLeaks dropped its first batch, Podesta emails, emails that WikiLeaks obtained from the Russians, according to U.S. intelligence. In an email at that time, Corsi suggested he should get credit for some of the WikiLeaks document dumps. But he denies he ever communicated with Assange.

CORSI: I had, I believe, I figured out that Assange had Podesta's emails. And did tell this, not only to Roger but to others. And it turned out that I was right. Now, that was deduction on my part, as best I can remember, I was putting together the dots.

REPORTER: The Access Hollywood tape rocked the Trump campaign, as Chris Christie, the former New Jersey Governor, who advised Trump during the campaign, recalls in his new book.

FORMER GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), N.J.: The tape was hard to watch. It was harder to listen to. But we watched and listened to the Access Hollywood video all the way to the end. The words sounded crude and vulgar playing through the small speaker on Hope Hicks' laptop, even more so with Donald sitting there with us.

REPORTER: At that time, Stone wasn't a campaign staffer at the time but he has served as a political adviser to Trump. He vehemently denies he asked Corsi to reach out to Assange and has accused his former associate of spreading lies about him.

STONE: Jerry Corsi is clearl delusional.

REPORTER: Stone has pleaded not guilty to seven charges of obstruction of justice, making false statements and witness tampering. And even though Corsi said he shared the Access Hollywood saga with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team and the Grand Jury, it wasn't referenced in Stone's indictment.

MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: There is no other evidence of that in the public record that we know of, absent that, it seems that Mueller is not going to rely on the word of Corsi all by itself as part of his indictment. It's just too dangerous for Mueller.

REPORTER: Two months ago, Mueller's team told Corsi they were prepared to indict him for lying to investigators, although not about the Access Hollywood story specifically. They offered Corsi a plea deal, which he rejected.


MURRAY: Now, so far, Jerome Corsi is not facing charges from Mueller. As Roger Stone, he's going to be back in court on Friday. And, of course, the big question is when he is in front of the judge who will oversee a trial, whether she decides to move forward with a gag order on the case.

BLITZER: Sara, I want you to stand by, everybody standby. Jeffrey Toobin, I need your analysis right now. If there was a direct effort to coordinate, to direct the WikiLeaks release of the John Podesta emails in order to help the trump campaign, what would that mean?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is where you have to speak with a good deal of precision, because a lot depends on precisely what the interaction was with WikiLeaks. If people affiliated with the Trump campaign, if Roger Stone, Jerome Corsi, were simply trying to find out what had already been hacked and what was coming out, I don't think that's necessarily a crime. But if they were encouraging, if they were assisting, if they were aiding and abetting WikiLeaks in the criminal obtaining of hacked emails, that would be a crime. The facts matter.

And I don't think, especially when you're dealing with the likes of Jerom Corsi and Roger Stone, who may have serious credibility problems, we don't know all the facts. That's why the prosecutors are relying so much on the texts and the emails because they're a lot easier to believe than oral testimony.

BLITZER: It's a very important point. And, David Swerdlick, how much weight can you give to Jerome Corsi's words?

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSITANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I agree with Jeffrey. You can give some weight to Jerry Corsi's words. And if what he says is true, that's a bombshell. But I think what the special prosecutor is looking at and what everybody in the public should look at is those series of emails between the summer and fall of 2016 between Corsi and Roger Stone that have been reported out.

I want to point out one other thing happened on that day, October 7, 2016. That was the day that the Obama administration publically, formally charged Russia with the DNC hack.


And that also got buried that day by the Access Hollywood story.

BLITZER: That's an important point as well. Phil, you think the electronic devices, the other information that were seized by the FBI in the raids on Roger Stone's two homes, one in Florida, one in New York, a storage facility that he had, that could provide some significant evidence?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes. That's only half the story. It's not only the electronic devices. You're going to go to an internet service provider and get the data from them as well. That might - let me give you an intel term, hops. That might tell you whether somebody talked to somebody talked to somebody talked to somebody talked to WikiLeaks, you're talking three hops out. So you can get a sense of who talked to whom.

The problem is if they didn't write in email or text and instead just had a phone call, which wouldn't have been recorded, you're not going to know what they said. And as we're discussing here, I wouldn't believe any of these people. So you can find out who talked to whom but I'm not sure you can find out What they said.

BLITZER: And, Sara, it's interesting. We don't know the identities of the Trump campaign officials who were in touch with Roger Stone directly and indirectly to talk about some of the sensitive matters. But I have no doubt that Mueller and his team, I'm sure they know.

MURRAY: I'm sure they do know. And I'm sure there is a reason that they did not name these people by name. I mean - or at least drop the bread crumbs for us to figure out. Some of them we did, Steve Bannon, for instance, was one of them. But for some of these other people, they have held back a little bit in part because they don't want to rely on these witnesses, unless there is corroborating evidence, unless they have documents, unless they have emails, text messages, recordings of a lot of these conversations.

I think the Special Counsel has been really hesitant to put anything out there unless they have this evidence to back it up. And so in the case of Roger Stone, that certainly leaves us wondering, who were all these other administration officials he was in contact with.

BLITZER: If you listen, Rebecca, to White House officials, they say that Roger Stone wasn't charged with conspiracy or collusion, end of story.

REBECCA BUCK, POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, unfortunately for them, it's not the end of the story, Wolf. Far from it, the story is continuing, the investigation is ongoing. It's not out of the realm of possibility that Roger Stone could be charged with other crimes down the line. This is possibly just the first trend [ph] of charges that he could be receiving.

And by the way, there's also another judge and jury to consider in all of this, and that's the public. That's the American people. Because, ultimately, from a political perspective, they will be bringing down a judgment on the President in 2020, regardless of what Mueller concludes. And so all of this information is relevant for that as well.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, there's still a lot of sense out there despite all the suggestions, maybe Mueller is getting closer to wrapping it up and releasing his report that there potentially could be more indictments down the road.

TOOBIN: We have been surprised every time that every time Mueller has come out with an indictment. We have all tried, those of us who have covered this, to know what was coming, and we've never figured it out.

So the one actual fact that came out recently was Matt Whitaker, the acting Attorney General, saying he has been briefed on the investigation and he believed it's coming to an end. But that's still pretty imprecise. Is that a couple of weeks? Is that six months? I don't know. So I am going to give you a ringing, I don't know, about when and whether this investigation is coming to an end.

BLITZER: You will let us know for sure. I'm sure you'll know it very quickly. It's interesting, Whitaker, the acting Attorney General, Sara, when he says he has been fully briefed on the Mueller investigation, we don't know who briefed him. Was it Mueller himself? Was it somebody on Mueller's team? Was it the deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein? Those are significant developments. MURRAY: Yes, those are significant developments. And I also think the idea that the investigation is wrapping up, that can mean a lot of different things. That could mean that the investigative steps steps are wrapping up, there are no more big indictments coming down, but they're still going to be working on this report, they still have other court actions to finish up, or it could mean that this is just wrapping up. Roger Stone is the end of it, they are near the end of the report.

I don't think that we're going to get more details on that from Matt Whitaker because I think he maybe has realized he gave us more details than he was supposed to the first time around, but we'll see.

BLITZER: And he was sweating when he was talking too. What do you anticipate?

MUDD: Look, I think we're missing the critical piece. The President Tweets a lot about stuff relating to money. Money is a southern district of New York, I think, and Cohen along with the Trump family, account --

BLITZER: Michael Cohen.

MUDD: Michael Cohen. So we keep talking about Mueller. And even if Mueller closes, my point is, we should be looking in New York to say, are there going to be charges related to family money? That's something, I think, that could set the President off, maybe even more than some of the Russia stuff.

BLITZER: Yes, I think you're right because --

TOOBIN: And - but it's also worth remembering that the Senate - the House Intelligence Committee as well as the House Oversight Committee and Financial Affairs Committee are going to be looking at the Trump family finances. So that will continue regardless of what

happens with Mueller. So there are a lot of moving parts out there and we don't have all the answers.

BLIT ZER: And the democratic majority in the House of Representatives, they will try to get Donald Trump's tax returns as well.

[18:45:03] Stand by for that.

There's more political news and other news we're following, including some significant political turmoil in Venezuela, opening up a rare rift between President Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Plus, the record breaking cold gripping much of the country turns deadly. And more record low temperatures are expected tonight.


[18:50:01] BLITZER: The political crisis unfolding in Venezuela is opening up a rare rift between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is joining us

from Moscow.

Matthew, the Trump administration recognizes the opposition leader, Juan Guaido, as Venezuela's interim president, while Putin is strongly backing the incumbent Nicolas Maduro. What's the latest over there?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the Russians strongly back Maduro. And they're watching the situation developing in Venezuela over these last few days extremely closely.

Russia has, of course, been one of the main countries that has propped up that socialist government of Nicolas Maduro over the past several years. It gives it economic support and loans. But it's also politically invested as well with a close personal relationship between the Venezuelan and the Russian leaders.

And as this crisis gathers pace, President Maduro is looking to his Russian counterpart, his Russian patron Vladimir Putin increasingly for support.


CHANCE (voice-over): Moscow has been one of President Maduro's strongest backers, extending billions of dollars in loans and investing heavily in Venezuela's oil-driven economy. And it is to Russia, Maduro is now turning as he faces the biggest challenge of his six-year rule.

NICOLAS MADURO, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We have Russia's full support at every level and we welcome it gladly and very gratefully. What did I ask President Putin? To stay in permanent contact.

CHANCE: But just how close is that contact remains a matter of rumor and controversy. In recent weeks, there's been unconfirmed reports of Russian mercenaries beefing up Maduro's personal security and intense speculation about the purpose of this Russian charter aircraft arriving in Caracas, forcing the Kremlin to deny reports it was sent to spirit away vast quantities of Venezuelan gold.

You have to be careful about various hoaxes, the Kremlin spokesman said. Russia is ready to do everything to facilitate the normalization of the inner political situation in Venezuela, he added. But is categorically against meddling in the country's affairs by a third country.

It's a not-so thinly veiled at the United States, whose top national security adviser appeared on Monday with a note pad showing the words 5,000 troops to Colombia, which neighbors Venezuela.

That prospect of yet another U.S.-backed regime change like the ones witnessed in Iraq or Libya is one issue guaranteed to infuriate the Kremlin.

Moscow is watching Venezuela closely, urging diplomacy, but also bracing for yet another damaging fallout with Washington.


CHANCE: Well, Wolf, tonight, the Russians are calling for dialogue between the Venezuelan government and opposition, even suggesting that they would play a mediating role in any diplomatic process.

Back to you.

BLITZER: All right. Matthew, thank you. Matthew Chance live in Moscow.

Just ahead, deadly cold temperatures covering much of the United States. We have a new forecast. That's next.


[18:58:01] BLITZER: The frigid air gripping much of the United States is blamed for nine deaths and it's only going to get colder tonight.

Our meteorologist Tom Sater has the latest forecast for us.

Tom, dozens of record low temperatures are expected to be set overnight.

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and maybe state records too. I think Illinois could break an all-time record if they get below minus 35 degrees. Well, here's what we're looking at. This is so different, Wolf, than historical arctic blast moved in before.

Usually, they come in with clear skies and light winds. If there's snow on the ground, typically, the temperatures start to fall as you have the raditional cooling. But this has come in with fierce winds, and the longevity of this, many locations have not been above zero for over day and will not get above zero until we get to midday Friday.

Chicago, postal carriers are not going to deliver the mail through Thursday. Now, Chicago at minus 15. The wind chill is minus 35. They dropped to minus 22 degrees and they had a wind chill this morning of minus 52, 53.

The winds are starting to lighten. That is good news. The bad news is the air is getting colder. It's marching south and it's marching east.

Hard to see these so let me read them. In Minnesota, lowest wind chill value, minus 66 in Ponsford, Minnesota. Lake Park, minus 63. The record in Minnesota for the lowest wind chill is minus 75 degrees.

Here is what we're looking at tomorrow morning. Detroit minus 33, wind chill. Chicago, minus 41, as mentioned. Minneapolis, 28. New York City, minus 10.

And this is one that gets a little interesting because we've got 43 possible records that will fall overnight tonight, Wolf. Did you notice the snow yet? A little bit in D.C., around 3:00, and in New York, it came through at 3:30.

It was 32 degrees and in three hours, it dropped to 16. The winds are 44 miles an hour, and it feels like zero.

This is going to hang around for some time, Wolf, at least for the weekend.

BLITZER: Wind chill, minus 1 here in Washington, D.C., minus 22 in my hometown of Buffalo, New York. It's cold out there.

Tom Sater, thanks very much.

And to our viewers, thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.